This and That

Surprise! It’s true but underreported that Thurston County will have at least one new commissioner next year.
 
John “Hutch” Hutchings won’t be serving a second term after capturing a mere 14 percent of the vote.
 
Top two finishers in the County Commission District 1 race? Two political newcomers: Democrat Carolina Mejia and Republican C Davis. The latter just edged out former commissioner Bud Blake, who ran as an independent.
 
Davis spent a mere $1,300 from a handful of donors, most of it on yard signs.
 
Hutchings, the one-term incumbent, barely campaigned for the seat, but of the $23,000 he raised, much of it was in loans to himself. He paid $3,500 to consulting firm Doug Mah and Associates. You may remember Mah as the former Mayor of Olympia. Yes – we live in a very small town. 
 
Voters countywide will decide the Mejia/Davis race in November. Sadly, local Republicans are already on the attack. Mejia, her supporters, and the State Democratic Party recently responded to vicious, racist claims that she is ineligible to run for office. According to a letter to the Thurston County Canvassing Board, they are claiming that Mejia is not a U.S. citizen.
 
The charge appears entirely without merit, as Mejia is a naturalized citizen. It has energized the candidate and her supporters. “This cynical political attack is disheartening, but also invigorating as it assures me that my perspective as a first-generation U.S. Citizen is needed in county government,” Mejia said in a Facebook post. Hutchings in turn was appalled at the attack and is endorsing Mejia.
 
By contrast, the outcome of the District 2 Commissioner’s primary was unsurprising. It will be incumbent Gary Edwards, running as an independent, trying to overcome the vast fundraising advantage of Democrat Michael Steadman.
 
Could two new commissioners be in our future? While the primary vote was just by district, all county residents may vote on the seats in November.
 
Raise hell and get results
 
Neighbors on Olympia’s westside were fuming (and who wouldn’t be) after receiving an email from the City of Olympia just a few days before a SWAT exercise was scheduled in their neighborhood.
 
The email read:
“On August 4, 2020 the Thurston County Regional SWAT team will be conducting training (from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.) You can expect a large presence of Law Enforcement in the area during this time … Throughout the day a variety of tools, equipment and specialized devices will be used by law enforcement. Some of the equipment and devices used produce a loud “bang or explosion” like sound. We ask that you not call 911 or be alarmed when you hear these sounds.”
 
The community response was fast and furious. Wrote one neighbor: “Frankly, I’m appalled that a SWAT team would elect to use a heavily residential neighborhood that has a lot of pedestrian traffic and kids at play as a SWAT team training location … especially during a time of heightened awareness of police violence against citizens. I’m deeply concerned about exposing my kids and others in the neighborhood to simulated violence against targets that look like our homes.”
 
Olympia City Council members went to bat for the residents, but it turns out citizen anger was partially misdirected. It turns out that the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office scheduled the training months ago. “Well before the social justice movement began,” said Acting Police Chief Aaron Jelcick, whose request to the Sheriff’s Office to move the training elsewhere was granted. 
 
Also, from Jelcick: “There were no discussions with council about this exercise.”
 
A thought for the city and county … political sensitivity training?
 
 
Records requests find the most interesting things…
 
Former Olympia Planning Commission Chair Max Brown blistered the city’s recent response to protests downtown. You might remember Brown from his run for Olympia City Council in 2017; his upstart, insurgent campaign garnered nearly 40% of the vote against incumbent Clark Gilman.
 
In a June 6 email, Brown begins with words of respect for the city and its police department and ends with an offer to help find solutions. 
 
From the email:
 “I believe the city’s initial response to the murder of George Floyd from the OPD was unacceptable. I was hoping for stronger language from our Chief condemning the actions of the officers in Minneapolis and a police response to demonstrations that did not escalate the situation. 
 
“In light of the revelation of an OPD officer standing with armed militia members holding white power symbols, I do not trust that every officer believes what happened to George Floyd was wrong. For our community to trust our officers, we need to know that every single one of them rejects the actions of the officers who murdered George Floyd. If the police want our trust and support, they must start by policing themselves better. … 
 
“Olympia has prided itself on being a progressive beacon of light to the world. It’s time we lived up to our ideals when it comes to how we police … what would our city look like if we diverted funding from law enforcement and spent that money on housing, mental health programs and loans for minority small business owners? Shouldn’t we be seeking a police force that looks even more like social workers and less like soldiers?” 
 
There is a lot here for the city council to consider.
 
What if I have nowhere to go? 
 
Thurston County and the state recently issued news releases informing the public that Deschutes Parkway around Capitol Lake will be closed Aug. 24-28 for roadwork.  
 
An unfortunate omission from both is an acknowledgment that the vehicles and RVs parked along the road, which are home to several dozen people, will be displaced. Residents were told several weeks ago they would have to move, but neither the County nor the state has offered them an alternative place to live. The State Patrol will be on hand to be sure they clear out on August 24, providing no offer of an alternative place to park.
 
It seems like there’s a lot of empty parking lots all around the county at businesses, faith communities, and at state office buildings emptied of employees due to the pandemic. 
 
Who will set the example by being the first to offer space?

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By Mindy Chambers

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